Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Will Teach for Food" (article on the Walmartization of higher education)

"The Walmartization of higher education is a better analogy: Hire cheap labor to cut costs. Colleges are modeling corporate America’s behavior and for identical bottom line reasons."

Fascinating article on adjuncts in higher education today.  A short read, well worth it, HERE.

I was talking about this to students the other day, actually - as it had come up at a recent conference I attended.  During the conference we were sitting at lunch, and I was with some close friends so I could say this in discretion, but I explained how having been on both sides of the isle I understood that adjuncts are exactly as capable as tenure track folks.  I was tenure track afterall, then had health issues take over my life (TIA and partial spinal stroke, central stroke pain in addition to a bad surgery, .i.e. lifelong chronic pain), and then left.  I have worked part-time teaching philosophy before and after that (and during, actually, which is ironic given the situation) and know that adjuncts are just as good as, if not better than, some or many tenure stream faculty.

Alas, if the money and security weren't an issue then mere status would be in the eye of the beholder.  But that's the whole point, isn't it?  Cheap labor, get the most out the most talented who happen to be the most hopeless.  VAP's are a step above, or faculty yearlong positions (and I've actually held both of those, too) really it appears that tenure stream positions will be phased out in our lifetime.  In the future instead of the median 70% adjunct rate going now (so seven out of ten professors teaching students are adjuncts) we'll soon see the full 100%.

Is higher education doomed?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Updated Program for New Realisms in Philosophy Summer School 2015


multi-species ontologies (quote of the day)

"The Epistemological Space of Translation" HAU Journal Special Issue (LINK)

"John William Miller's notion of 'midworld' can add something to philosophical ecology in this respect: one gains a better appreciation for how other agents interact with their own environments, and yet those smaller or larger environments affect other larger or smaller environments. Axiological value is one although the perspectives and relations between perspectives are many." (LINK)

HT Twitter items Adam Robbert @KnowledgEcology

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Is the nature of "wilderness" an incoherent concept?

Find out here, as the concept of "wilderness" is discussed in some depth on Philosophy Talk.  Special broadcast live on Soundclound from Lewis & Clarke College, Portland, Oregon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Naturalistic Idealism: John William Miller and Philosophical Ecology (abstract for my AJTP article)

"Naturalistic Idealism: John William Miller and Philosophical Ecology" 

Leon Niemoczynski
Immaculata University

In this paper I attend to the naturalism (and idealism) of the American philosopher John William Miller (1895-1978).  I explore Miller's concept of the "midworld" and relate it to the notion of ontological "scale" within philosophical ecology.  Specifically, I argue that just as reality is ontologically flat - so "ordinal" and of "ontological parity" pace Buchler and Corrington - reality's ontological depth and breadth stretches to meet axiological value as well, most especially considering the reality of relational value. Relations on the level of the ant and its environment, for example, are not only "just as real as" but are also "just as important as" the human relation to its world.  To say that these relations are each as important as the other is not to say a.) that they are absolutely relative to the agents involved or b.) that relations collapse into the flat reality of one, univocal relation.  There are varying "scales" of ontological relation where each varying scale has just as much value as the next.  I think Miller's notion of "midworld" can add something to philosophical ecology in this respect: one gains a better appreciation for how other agents interact with their own environments, and yet those smaller or larger environments affect other larger or smaller environments. Axiological value is one although the perspectives and relations between perspectives are many.

"Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" in Ecotheology and Nohuman Ethics (abstract for my forthcoming book chapter)


"Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" in Ecotheology and Nohuman Ethics

Edited by Melissa Brotton (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, forthcoming 2015).

"Feeling and the Role of Empathy in Animal Ethics" 
Leon Niemoczynski, Immaculata University

This chapter seeks to address the role of empathy in animal emotions drawing out its ethical implications. In particular, I explore how empathy and the emotions may be understood as a means of direct affective communication - but also indirect semiotic communication - between human and nonhuman animal species. Drawing on the work of eco-process philosophers (and theologians) Charles Hartshorne and Alfred North Whitehead I draw upon the importance of feeling insofar as it is understood to be an emotive bond and manner of expression that allows creatures, human and nonhuman, to communicate with one another. The chapter concludes by articulating why centering on empathy and feeling within animal emotions might be important for bettering the welfare of nonhuman species in human and nonhuman relationships, thus bettering in turn environmental and ecological justice.

Leon Niemoczynski teaches in the Philosophy Department at Immaculata University. His research focuses on the philosophy of nature, where he is especially interested in issues pertaining to philosophical naturalism, logic and metaphysics, aesthetics, German idealism, philosophical ecology, animal ethics, environmental philosophy, and environmental philosophy's relationship to the philosophy of religion. Niemoczynski is the author of Charles Sanders Peirce and a Religious Metaphysics of Nature (Lexington Books, 2011) and is a co-editor of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature: Prospects for Ecstatic Naturalism (Lexington Books, 2014). In 2014 he co-edited through Open Humanities Press Animal Experience: Consciousness and Emotions in the Natural World, where his radio interview about that book on "The Philosopher's Zone (ABC National Radio) was nominated for a Voiceless Media Prize, a prize which honors work contributing to animal rights and advocacy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ray Brassier: Idioms and Idiots

In 2008 Ray Brassier was part of an improvisational musical quartet - where a CD was released of their performance.
We did something together: a concert. We want to try to explain it to ourselves: What happened exactly? How did it happen? And why? … We want to recount the story of the process, but not only that; we also want to recapitulate all the discussions that took place before and afterwards (right up to the present), articulating the questions posed by the concert – questions that are both abstractly theoretical and very concrete. Our hope is that in doing so, the experience of the concert will allow us to attain a better understanding of the representation of art in art.

Idioms and Idiots and its accompanying CD released on Mattin’s w.m.o/r label by the quartet of Ray Brassier, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Seijiro Murayama and Mattin himself. Ignoring the actual music for a moment, the text, which apparently took two years to develop, its a complex, often rather high-brow evaluation of an entire musical event, which took place as part of the NPAI Festival in Niort, France in 2008.

The leaning of the text towards quite heavy philosophical analysis clearly stems in part from the inclusion of Ray Brassier as part of the quartet. Brassier is a philosopher, a thinker and writer, and not a musician. Yet he has been brought into the quartet to play the guitar here, despite having had only a very distant past relationship with the instrument and having never improvised in front of an audience before. In doing this the group challenge the notion of the improvising musician, but also they were determined to separate him during the concert from what an audience might expect from a philosopher placed in this position – no speech, no reading, just trying to improvise alongside the others.

So all four musicians have contributed to the text, but I suspect the bulk has come from Brassier. I found the booklet easy to read in places, tough to penetrate in others, but at the heart of everything sits the notion of creating music that avoids the idiomatic, strives for something that the musicians hope to be as close to really improvised in the moment as possible, and avoids listener expectations. The end product of this process, the music recorded and released on CD (and also available for free here) does not seem to matter to the musicians as much as the process and thought that has gone into creating it.
One can see the original link to the Idioms and Idiots 2008 event HERE, or download the CD of the event, including Brassier's participation in the improvisation HERE.  More recently he was involved with the "Freedom is a Constant Struggle" improvisation, see HERE.

I write about this because Enemy Industry blog has a post up (HERE) covering "compulsive freedom," or the role of improvisation, freedom, creativity, and spontaneity in the work of Ray Brassier.  Citing for example the following, Brassier is quoted as stating,
The act is the only subject. It remains faceless. But it can only be triggered under very specific circumstances. Acknowledgement of the rule generates the condition for deviating from or failing to act in accordance with the rule that constitutes subjectivity. This acknowledgement is triggered by the relevant recognitional mechanism; it requires no appeal to the awareness of a conscious self...
Here we find that it is not subjectivity but the "subject" which is the aim of any desubjectivation. Or, according to Enemy Industry's commentary, "determinants of action become 'for themselves.' They enter into the performance situation as explicit possibilities for action."

To my mind, Brassier's naturalism has always been "process" oriented and such couldn't be more clear than in his writings on freedom and improvisation (see HERE).  When I say that he draws on the process tradition by speaking about and articulating the sort of creativity born within mechanisms of freedom, or "compulsive freedom" as it were, as it is found in process, pragmatic naturalisms, he is not drawing upon process philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead or Charles Hartshorne (their theological commitments aside).  To make this point we find that Brassier's simultaneous retrieval and sharp critique of one Henri Bergson sets the stage exactly for what Brassier takes creativity, spontaneity, and freedom to be: a pillar of agency utilized by determinants of action who are constrained if not even themselves created by specific mechanism and rules of action. Yet Brassier's naturalism is not confined to a confrontation with Bergson.  For Brassier, freedom is "embodied, historical, and physical."  It involves concepts, language, and mechanism of concepts and language.  Again, citing Brassier in his process-naturalism,
The improviser must be prepared to act as an agent—in the sense in which one acts as a covert operative—on behalf of whatever mechanisms are capable of effecting the acceleration or confrontation required for releasing the act. The latter arises at the point of intrication between rules and patterns, reasons and causes. It is the key that unlocks the mystery of how objectivity generates subjectivity. The subject as agent of the act is the point of involution at which objectivity determines its own determination...
This is indeed a Sellarsian - not Whiteheadian - naturalistic account of subjectivity and freedom, one that inversely states that objectivity itself is process - a process that creates subjectivity which in turn takes itself to be a creating subject.  So, it is Sellars to whom we must turn.

Interestingly, then, it is a non-Whiteheadian process philosophy that seems to be informing Brassier's naturalism as it is currently stated.  But Brassier is articulating a process philosophy nonetheless.  The question is how best might we interpret it.

Hegel, Tillich, and Caputo

New friend Jacob Given has gotten in touch.  Jacob, who is a graduate student at Villanova, is the author of "Letting the Finite Vanish, Hegel, Tillich, and Caputo on the Ontological Philosophy of Religion" which I have linked before here at After Nature.  For those who haven't seen the paper, definitely check it out HERE.

Jacob tells me he is interested in the possibility of metaphysics after deconstruction and German idealism. My cup of tea.  One author I would suggest to those who enjoy his paper is Christopher Ben Simpson - a philosopher and theologian has written books on Deleuze and theology and Merleau-Ponty and theology.  Simpson also authored The William Desmond Reader.

While on topic, for those interested, William Desmond is another name to check out.  His trilogy of God and the Between, Being and the Between, and Ethics and the Between is top notch, as are his writings on Hegel.  There is a very nice interview with Desmond HERE, and he is endorsed by Creston Davis HERE.  Great reading for those interested in "radical theology."  It seems to me radical theology is on the rise in Continental philosophy of religion, mostly thanks to the Homebrewed Christianity crowd which has alot of influence due to their (fantastic) heavily followed blog and podcast.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Is Phenomenology Philosophically Unproductive?"

Interesting conversation that has unfolded in the comments section; about 45 comments.    Responding to these provoking lines:

Why is so little phenomenology taught and researched in North American philosophy departments? Because it studies the essence of consciousness is it too continental for your analytic minds? Why must philosophy be categorized so strictly?
Jonathan Westphal (Hampshire College) responded:

I think the answer may be that phenomenology has produced so disappointingly little. In a non-philosophical sense phenomenology is defined as the preliminary classification of phenomena in an enquiry. So one might for example regard it as a piece of phenomenology in this non-philosophical sense to say that a white surface seen through a light blue filter looks stone-cold white, and not blue at all, as per the philosophical folklore. The question the analytic philosophers ask themselves, I suspect, or at least this one does, is whether there is something as solid and productive that can be gleaned from phenomenology in the philosophical sense, in addition to its methodological meanderings.
My sense is that phenomenology is enjoying a bit of a resurgence as the professional significance of the Analytic-Continental distinction  continues to erode. I also wonder what “productiveness” is supposed to mean in this context (such that the explanation couldn’t be run in reverse). But I would be glad to hear from others more knowledgeable than I am on these matters.
Definitely worth reading through, link HERE.  My last grapple with this was with Tom Sparrow at an APA one year.  The conclusion was that it is hard to distinguish what is not phenomenology if phenomenology means "descriptive reportage."  Is descriptive philosophical literature phenomenology?  Is writing first-person about the process of creative an artwork phenomenology?  Is a travel diary phenomenology? 

Since that conversation with Tom I've gone on to think about the possibility of phenomenology as part of mathematics, category theory, and logic which has given me a different outlook on the matter.  I've just read so much more outside of the scope of Husserlian phenomenology.  Husserl, like Descartes used to be for the Continental tradition - for different reasons of course - seems to be the latest and greatest scapegoat for deanthropocentrist rage.

Readers may be interested in some of these After Nature posts:

* "Workshop in Noncorrelationist Phenomenology" (worth the read despite the length) HERE.

* "Noncorrelationist Phenomenology: Is it a Possibility?" HERE.

* "Speculative Realism's Relationship to Phenomenology" (a post written during the glory days of blogging; post actually inspired by a conversation involving Tom Sparrow, Jason Hills, and myself, as well as obliquely Dylan Trigg - someone who has on more than one occasion sharply addressed some of my thoughts here at After Nature, although cross-platform hurdles between blogger and Twitter prevented me from answering back.  Trigg has since disappeared from Twitter having moved on to a postdoc position here in the States. Some associate his work close to Sparrow's, I think Hill's work and my own represent another side of the coin, so to speak.) HERE.

* "Uexküllian phenomenology" HERE.

Heatsick Recommends Urbanomic's #ACCELERATE Reader

"Having previously documented emerging perspectives on accelerationism and what became known as 'speculative realism' in his Collapse journal, Mackay explained the potential pitfalls of philosophies being hijacked. This has been particularly evident in the cartoonish path of speculative realism—a philosophy popularized by a former sports journalist that rejects the privileging of human thought over that of other entities. It was also the source of many an artwork depicting the secret sentient life of random objects and anonymous materials.

However, being of the mindset that someone will inevitably publish a book on accelerationism, Mackay decided he would rather it be him...To withdraw from the world market . . . or might it be to go in the opposite direction? Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to 'accelerate' the process.'"


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bonn Summer School in German Philosophy: “The ‘Idealism’ in German Idealism” (July 20-31, 2015)

Featuring Catherine Malabou.  Forster and Gabriel organizing/leading the event.

5th International Summer School in German Philosophy:
“The ‘Idealism’ in German Idealism”
(July 20-31)

Course description:
  • The first week (July 20-24) with Prof. Forster will mainly focus on Kant’s “transcendental idealism”. We will discuss the emergence of, and the original philosophical motivations for, such a position in Kant’s precritical writings, and above all his arguments for it in the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/7), where special attention will be paid to the Transcendental Aesthetic, the Transcendental Deduction, the Principles, and the Antinomies. We will also consider, though more briefly, the historical fate of, and the philosophical prospects for, such a position after Kant. 
  • The second week (July 27-31) with Prof. Gabriel will mainly focus on idealism in Fichte and Hegel. On some very problematic straw-man readings, Fichte and Hegel aim at developing a Kantianism without things in themselves by simply dropping the very idea of a thing in itself and thereby claiming that we must contend ourselves with Kantian appearances all the way down. Against such straw-man readings – made prominent by figures as different as Heidegger and Russell – the second week of the course with Prof. Gabriel will be dedicated to Fichte’s and Hegel’s early understanding and criticism of transcendental idealism as proposed by Kant. In particular, we will read passages from Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre 1794 and Hegel’s Faith and Knowledge (1802). The leading question will be how Fichte and Hegel are able to incorporate an improved variety of the Kantian distinction of theory-orders separating transcendental idealism from empirical realism. Arguably, this early stage of what was later dubbed “German Idealism” is actually concerned with spelling out the structure of the metaphysics and epistemology needed in order to make sense of both the very existence of a first-order realist theory layer and the overall intelligibility of the facts obtaining and the objects existing within the domain posited on the higher-order level of idealistic theorizing. Thus, surprisingly, German Idealism might come to be seen as providing a deflationary meta-theory for Kant’s enterprise. 

ISSHS Summer School: "New Forms of Realism in Contemporary Philosophy" (June 25th - July 3rd, 2015)

ISSHS - The Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Summer School

"New Forms of Realism in Contemporary Philosophy" (June 25th - July 3rd, 2015)
Featuring seminar leader Francois Laruelle


The Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities-Skopje in cooperation with the International Institute of Studies of Humanities and Social Sciences (based in Athens) announces the summer school program "New Forms of Realismin Contemporary Philosophy."

Part 1 will be held in Ohrid (Macedonia) 26 June-3 July, 2015. The "New Forms of Realism in Contemporary Philosophy"summer school in Ohrid will focus on the recent trends of realism in contemporary philosophy which has been labeled often erroneously under a single and vague category such as "speculative realism" or "new materialism" etc. Unpacking such generalizations and aiming at specific authors who have generated distinct strands of thought that nonetheless constitute what we have vaguely termed "new realisms in philosophy," we conceptualized the sub-courses:

-"The non-standard philosophyof François Laruelle"; sub-course leader: François Laruelle
-"Non-standard epistemologies"; sub-course leader Anne Françoise Schmid
-"Magic Realism and Socialist Realism: Arts and Persuasion";sub-course leader SvetlanaSlapšak
-"Exploration of possibilities for realist readings in contemporary feminist philosophy in line with non-standard philosophy and the writings of Marx";sub-course leader: KatarinaKolozova

More information and an official call for applications HERE.

ISSO: International Summer School in Ontology (August 24th - August 29th, 2015)


Monday August 24th - Saturday August 29th, 2015
Grado, ITALY

ISSO is a six days school which provides an unique insight into the contemporary debate on ontology. Six leading philosophers will address this classical philosophical question from different perspectives.

Giorgio Agamben
Francesco Berto
Ray Brassier
François Laruelle
Paul M. Livingston
Davide Tarizzo

Link to the conference website HERE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Great site about animal cognition

Wow. This site has alot to chew through...definitely something to check out.

It's moniker reads, "Animal Cognition - The mental capacities of nonhuman animals."

Go there and poke through some of the posts. You'll be amazed (and if you're an advocate for animals many of your philosophical intuitions regarding animals will be confirmed).